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Israel's Merkava tanks to receive 14,000 US MPAT 120mm shells

On December 9, 2023, the US Secretary of State authorized a Foreign Military Sale to Israel, involving a $106.5 million deal for 13,981 units of 120mm M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer (MPAT) tank shells. This followed an earlier request for Congressional approval to sell 45,000 rounds for Israel's Merkava tanks.
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A Merkava Mk.4 tank of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. (Picture source: IDF)

The package requested by the Government of Israel includes the tank cartridges along with publications, technical documentation, and support services from the US Government and contractors. These services cover engineering, technical, and logistics aspects, as well as studies, surveys, and other support elements. The sale was approved under the justification of US national security interests, with the Secretary of State citing an emergency to bypass the standard Congressional review requirements in Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act.

Typically, a 20-day review period by congressional committees is standard for foreign military sales. However, in this case, an emergency declaration issued by the State Department facilitated the immediate transfer of the tank shells to Israel, drawing from the US Army's existing inventory without reportedly affecting US defense readiness.

This decision comes against the backdrop of ongoing debates about US support in the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, with discussions on both domestic and international fronts regarding a ceasefire and the conditions of weapon supplies to Israel.

After the Hamas terror attack on October 7, 2023, the Israeli Ministry of Defense reported a substantial influx of military equipment, with over 200 cargo planes arriving from various countries. These deliveries amounted to more than 10,000 tons of equipment, including ammunition, armored vehicles, and weapons. Additionally, in response to the situation in Gaza, Germany permitted the use of its Heron TP drones by Israel.

The US Defense Department, in comparison to its detailed disclosures about aid to Ukraine, has been less forthcoming about the specifics of its military support to Israel. Reports from Army Recognition indicate that the equipment sent to Israel by the US includes Iron Dome interceptor missiles, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), David armored vehicles, David's Sling missiles, and precision-guided joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs).

The M830A1 High Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose with Tracer tank cartridge, known as MPAT, is a 120mm tank round developed by Northrop Grumann to replace the M830 HEAT round. Compared to the M830, the M830A1 has a 20% improvement in performance against bunkers and a 30% increase in performance against light armored vehicles. This cartridge utilizes a discarding sabot with a sub-caliber warhead and a multifunction fuzing system. Its distinctive airburst capability can be rapidly selected by the tank crewman, making it an ideal choice for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in urban warfare scenarios.

In terms of physical and performance specifications, the M830A1 HEAT-MP-T cartridge measures 981mm in length and weighs 24.68 kg. It employs a propellant type known as 19 Perf Hex JA2, with a propellant weight of 7.1 kg. The MPAT projectile has a weight of 11.4 kg and a length of 778 mm. When fired, it reaches a muzzle velocity of 1,400 meters per second, thanks to a chamber pressure of 5,600 bars, providing an effective target range of 4,000 m.

US M830A1 120mm Merkava tank round Israel IDF 925 001

Compared to the previous M830 round, the M830A1 has a 20% improvement in performance against bunkers and a 30% increase in performance against light armored vehicles. (Picture source: Northrop Grumann)


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